Soil Science Primer – Part 1

Defining soil

The Seed-Ball Fantasy

It’s easy to romanticize the noble guerrilla gardener:

 Under the cover of darkness, clad in soil-tarnished black, circling abandoned lots, the seed-baller hurls seed balls and hope into the desolation.

And that’s all that happens.  Nothing grows very well.

Fortunately, there is much you can do ahead of time to help make the promise that each seed ball offers a reality.  One of those things is doing your homework on soil.

What is a soil?

When I say ‘a soil,’ it means more than dirt.  A soil is a specific structure on the surface of our planet. It is utterly unique.  For thousands, maybe millions of years, it has been evolving, sometimes deepening, sometimes washing away, always in a state of flux. It is influenced by it the rock beneath, the plants and animals within and above, its position on the landscape, the changing seasons, and its age.  In fact, there’s a conceptual equation called the State Equation for Soil Formation:


In English, a soil is a function of climate, organisms, slope, parent material, and time.  Note the ‘…’ . This means other stuff. Usually PEOPLE! I’ll cover some of the ways people affect the soil in a bit.

To sum it up, every spot of exposed land on the planet has a unique combination of factors that have led to the soil on that spot.  These factors affect its stability, ability to support different types of plants, and its resilience to disturbance.

Continue on to Part 2.

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